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Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu

Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu

Five hundred years of Ryukyuan history (12th-17th century) are represented by this group of sites and monuments. The ruins of the castles, on imposing elevated sites, are evidence for the social structure over much of that period, while the sacred sites provide mute testimony to the rare survival of an ancient form of religion into the modern age. The wide- ranging economic and cultural contacts of the Ryukyu Islands over that period gave rise to a unique culture.

Sites Gusuku et biens associés du royaume des Ryukyu

Ce groupe de sites et de monuments représente cinq cents ans d'histoire des Ryukyu (XIIe -XVIIe siècle). Les châteaux en ruine, qui se dressent sur d'imposantes hauteurs, illustrent la structure sociale d'une grande partie de cette période, tandis que les sites sacrés demeurent les témoins muets de la rare survivance d'une ancienne forme de religion jusque dans l'ère contemporaine. Les multiples contacts économiques et culturels des îles Ryukyu au cours de cette période s'expriment dans le caractère unique de la culture qu'elles ont forgée.

مواقع غوسوكو وممتلكات مملكة الريوكيو

 تشكّل هذه المجموعة من المواقع والنصب 500 سنة من تاريخ الريوكيو (من القرن الثاني عشر حتى القرن السابع عشر). فالقصور المُهدَّمة المُنتصبة على مرتفعاتٍ عاليةٍ، تُبيّن التكوين الاجتماعي لفئةٍ كبيرةٍ من الذين عاشوا في تلك الحقبة. أما في ما يتعلّق بالمواقع المُقدّسة فهي لا تزال الشاهدة الصامتة على البقاء النادر للشكل القديم للديانة حتى التاريخ المُعاصر. وعلاقات جزر الريوكيو الاقتصاديّة والثقافيّة المُتعددّة في تلك الفترة تَظهر في الطابع الفريد للثقافة التي أنشأوها.

source: UNESCO/ERI

琉球王国时期的遗迹

该遗址群和建筑群展示了琉球王国500多年的历史(公元12世纪至17世纪),雄伟的城堡遗址体现了那个时期琉球王国的社会结构,而岛上的宗教圣地则无言地述说着古代宗教形式到现代少有的延续。在那500年中,琉球群岛王国广泛地与外界进行着经济和文化交流,从而造就了这一独特的文化遗存。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Замки «гусуку» и связанные с ними памятники древнего царства на островах Рюкю

500 лет истории Рюкю (XII-XVII вв.) представлены этой группой почитаемых мест и памятников. Руины замков, расположенные на возвышенных участках, отражают особенности социальной структуры того периода. Священные места, дошедшие до наших дней, представляют собой молчаливое свидетельство редкой древней формы религии. Широкие экономические и культурные контакты островов Рюкю послужили основой для развития уникальной культуры.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Sitios Gusuku y bienes culturales asociados del Reino de las Ryukyu

Este conjunto de sitios y monumentos es representativo de la historia de las islas Ryukyu entre los siglos XII y XVII. Los castillos en ruina, encaramados en cimas imponentes, ilustran la estructura social de una gran parte de esa época, mientras que los sitios sagrados son testigos mudos de la rara supervivencia de un antiguo culto religioso en la edad moderna. Los múltiples contactos económicos y culturales de las islas durante esos cinco siglos dieron origen a una cultura única en su género.

source: UNESCO/ERI

琉球王国のグスク及び関連遺産群

source: NFUAJ

Gusuku en aan het Koninkrijk van Ryukyu gerelateerde eigendommen

Deze gebieden en monumenten vertegenwoordigen vijfhonderd jaar geschiedenis van het koninkrijk van Ryukyu (12e-17e eeuw). De ruïnes van de kastelen – die op imposante, verhoogde plaatsen liggen – zijn het bewijs van de sociale structuur die tijdens een groot deel van deze periode heerste. De heilige plaatsen zijn stille getuigen van het zeldzame voortbestaan van een eeuwenoude vorm van religie tot in de moderne tijd. De brede economische en culturele contacten van de Ryukyu-eilanden met Zuidoost Azië, China, Korea en Japan waren het begin van een unieke cultuur, op een levendige manier zichtbaar door de monumenten uit die periode.

Source: unesco.nl

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Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Five hundred years of Ryukyuan history (12th-17th centuries) are represented by this group of sites and monuments.

The nine component parts of the property include the sites and archaeological ruins of two stone monuments, five castles, and two cultural landscapes. They are scattered across Okinawa Island, collectively covering 54.9 ha. The surrounding buffer zone covers a total area of 559.7 ha.

In the 10th-12th centuries, Ryukyuan farming communities (gusuku) began to enclose their villages with simple stone walls for protection. From the 12th century onwards powerful groups known as aji began to emerge. They enlarged the defences of their own settlements, converting them into fortresses for their own households; these adopted the term gusuku to describe these formidable castles.

The castle ruins of the Gusuku sites on imposing elevated locations, are evidence for the social structure over much of that period, while the sacred sites provide mute testimony to the rare survival of an ancient form of religion into the modern age. The wide-ranging economic and cultural contacts of the Ryukyu Islands over that period gave rise to a unique culture.

Criterion (ii): For several centuries the Ryukyu islands served as a centre of economic and cultural interchange between south-east Asia, China, Korea, and Japan, and this is vividly demonstrated by the surviving monuments.

Criterion (iii): The culture of the Ryukyuan Kingdom evolved and flourished in a special political and economic environment, which gave its culture a unique quality.

Criterion (vi): The Ryukyu sacred sites constitute an exceptional example of an indigenous form of nature and ancestor worship that has survived intact into the modern age alongside other established world religions.

Integrity

In Ryukyu there remain more than three hundred Gusuku sites and related assets, of which five Gusuku sites, two related monuments, and two cultural landscapes are included as component parts of the property. Each of the individual component parts of the property is an outstanding representative of the religious beliefs and activities unique to the Ryukyu cultural tradition. Moreover, they are self contained with their own boundaries and buffer zone. They embody not only the geographical and historical characteristics but also the political, economic, and cultural uniqueness of the kingdom’s five hundred years’ regime. They firmly maintain the top-quality wholeness and integrity of the property.

Authenticity

The entire region suffered considerable damage during the Second World War and reconstruction work has taken place on many of the component parts. In Japan the authenticity of the form/design and materials/substance of each part of the property remains at a very high level, as they have been rehabilitated and restored under strict rules for more than one hundred years. Authenticity of location/setting has been maintained in that none of the component parts of the property has been moved from its original location and traces of buildings discovered through archeological excavations have been preserved underground. Extensive measures have been taken to make it possible to differentiate original materials from those used for rehabilitation and restoration, while sufficient care has been taken in the course of choosing materials. In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, there were some cases of using improper materials, but adequate steps have been taken to replace these with proper materials or to establish clear distinctions between proper and improper materials. All the projects for such procedures are based on detailed surveys and research conducted in advance.

The main hall of Shuri- jô was restored not only on the basis of the surveyed plans and photographs of the actual architecture as it was seen before its destruction by the wartime fire, but also in strict accordance with the findings of the excavation covering a wide area. The exact replica of the lost structure is now a great monument symbolizing the pride of the Ryukyu people.

Shikinaen was restored utilizing similar procedures, the royal villa and garden being recreated with great precision. The underground structural remains were excavated and documented with the utmost care and, when necessary, covered by layers of innocuous earth or sand in order to facilitate differentiation from the structure restored on the original site, thus protecting the existing remains from the work of restoration and rehabilitation while preserving them in good condition.

With respect to craftsmen’s skill, a high level and homogeneous authenticity is properly maintained and their traditional techniques are applied to all projects for restoration, rehabilitation and preservation on an extensive scale.

As described above, the property retains a high level of authenticity in terms of form/design, materials/substance, traditions/techniques, location/setting, function and spirit.

Protection and management requirements

Each component part of the property is designated as an Important Cultural Property, a Historic Site or a Special Place of Scenic Beauty under the 1950 Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties and subjected to strict preservation and management.

The component parts of the property are owned either by the Government of Japan as a nation, a wide range of municipalities or, in some cases, particular private persons. Seifa-Utaki and Zakimi-jô are owned by the respective municipalities where they are located. Nakijin-jô, Katsuren-jô and Nakagusuku-jô are publicly owned for the most part except for a small portion under private ownership. Shuri-jô is a joint property of Japan and Okinawa Prefecture. Tamaudun is jointly owned by Okinawa Prefecture and Naha City. Sonohyan-Utaki-Ishimon and Shikinaen are owned by Naha City. 

The Agency for Cultural Affairs is the agency with management authority responsibilities for preservation, repairs and utilization of those component parts are assumed by the respective owners and administrators. The Government of Japan and Okinawa Prefecture are authorized to provide necessary financial and technical assistance.

The Okinawa Prefecture is in the process of establishing itself as an internationally resort area promoting the unique natural setting and cultural tradition but the various development plans provide for the protection of the property’s component parts. In the buffer zones separating the individual component parts of the property, the height, design, coloring and other factors are also restricted according to the ordinances of the respective municipalities. In addition, almost all such buffer zones are included in the municipalities’ city park, which have been or are about to be put into effect with a view to improving the environments of the component parts and promoting exhibition to the public. Individual management plans are in place for the Nakijin-jô site, Nakagusuku-jô site and Katsuren-jô site, however an overall management plan for the entire inscribed property was lacking. Therefore, the Comprehensive Management Plan was established in 2013 by Okinawa Prefecture in cooperation with the municipal governments concerned, in order to ensure the long term conservation and protection of the property.

Long Description

For several centuries the Ryukyu Islands served as a centre of economic and cultural interchange between South-East Asia, China, Korea and Japan, and this is vividly demonstrated by the surviving monuments. The culture of the Ryukyuan Kingdom evolved and flourished in a special political and economic environment.

In the 10th-12th centuries, Ryukyuan farming communities (gusuku ) began to enclose their villages with simple stone walls for protection. From the 12th century onwards powerful groups known as aji began to emerge. They enlarged the defences of their own settlements, converting them into fortresses for their own households; these adopted the term gusuku to describe these formidable castles. There followed a continual struggle for supremacy between the aji , which did not coalesce until the 15th century into three main kingdoms - Hokuzan (North Mountain), Chûzan (Central Mountain), and Nanzan (South Mountain).

The Tamaudun Royal was built by Shô Shin around 1501 as a symbol of royal power, and to take advantage of the Ryukyuan people's practice of worshipping at the tombs of ancestors. It is carved into the limestone bedrock and covered by a gabled pantile roof.

The Sonohyan-utaki Ishimon (Stone Gate of the Sonohyan Shrine) was erected in 1519 by Shô Shin, fronting a sacred forest (Sonohyan-utaki). It was considered to be the guardian shrine of the Ryukyu Kingdom, where prayers were offered for peace and security at annual ritual ceremonies. It represents the unique style of stone architecture developed in Ryukyu.

The Nakijin-jô (Nakijin Castle) became the residence of the Ryukyuan Kingdom governor. Work began on its construction in the late 13th century and it had reached its final form by the beginning of the 15th century. The castle is strategically sited on a lone hill, well defended by natural features (river, cliffs and deep valley).

The Zakimi-jô (Zakimi Castle) was built in the early 15th century by a powerful chieftain, Gosamaru. After the establishment of the Ryukyu Kingdom it served to watch over the survivors of the Hokuzan Kingdom, who had fled to the west coast of Okinawa.

The Katsuren-jô (Katsuren Castle), built in the 12th-13th centuries, was the stronghold of another powerful chieftain, Amawari. Sited on a dominant hill, it comprises four linked enclosures with walls of coralline limestone. There are several ancient places of worship, in particular the shrine dedicated to Kobazukasa, a round stone column in the middle of the first enclosure, is still of considerable spiritual significance.

The Nakagusuku-jô (Nakagusuku Castle), built in the turbulent final years of the 14th century and extended in the mid-15th century, consists of six enclosures, arranged in a line on a steep promontory.

Shuri-jô (Shuri Castle) built in the second half of the 14th century, was the main castle of the kings of Chûzan and, after unification, of the Ryukyu Kingdom. The hill on which it stands dominates Naha City and its port. It is divided into inner and outer enclosures, conforming with the topography. The castle's enclosure walls, built with random bonding of coralline limestone, extend over 1,080 m.

Shikinaen, a royal garden villa, is recorded as having been constructed in 1799. The plan shows Japanese influence, although Chinese features are to be found in some structures. The result is, however, uniquely Ryukyuan. Around the pool are disposed walkways, pavilions, artificial hills and flower gardens.

Sêfa-utaki became one of the most sacred places in the new religion. There are several places of worship, three of them linked by stone-flagged paths. There are few material indications of the significance of Sêfa-utaki: it is essentially a densely wooded hill on which the shrines and prayer sites have an ageless spiritual quality that derives from their setting rather than man-made symbols.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

In the 10th-12th centuries, Ryukyuan farming communities (gusukus) began to enclose their villages with simple stone walls for protection. From the 12th century onwards powerful groups, known as aji, began to emerge. They enlarged the defences of their own settlements, converting them into fortresses for their own households; these adopted the term gusuku to describe these formidable castles. There followed a continual struggle for supremacy between the aji, which did not coalesce until the 15th century into three main kingdoms - Hokuzan (North Mountain), Chûzan (Central Mountain), and Nanzan (South Mountain).

The Sanzan (Three Mountain) period was marked by many changes in Ryukyuan society and economy. Improved tools and techniques resulted in enormous growth in agricultural production. There was intensive trade from the Sanzan Period onwards with Song Dynasty China, mainland Japan, the Korean peninsula, and south-east Asia, reaching its peak between the end of the 14th century and the mid 16th century.

This period came to an end in 1429 when Ryukyu was finally united by the Chûzan ruler into a single kingdom. The first king was expelled in a coup-d'état in 1469, but the kingdom survived intact until 1879; the two periods are known as the First and Second Shô Dynasty respectively. The third king of the Second Shô Dynasty, Shô Shin, consolidated the administration of the kingdom, instituting strong centralized control of both the political and the religious system.
The Kingdom was conquered from Japan in 1609 by the Satsuma fief during the Tokugawa Shogunate, but the new overlords retained the Ryukyuan monarchy as its local administration. It also provided valuable links with the rest of the world at a period when Japan was virtually closed to all overseas contacts. With the end of the Shogunate at the Meiji Restoration in 1868, it survived briefly as the "Ryukyu Domain," but in 1879 the Ryukyu Kingdom was abolished and the islands became the Okinawa Prefecture under the new administrative system.

Ryukyu was the scene of heavy bombardment and bitter land fighting at the end of World War II; many lives were lost and the cultural properties were grievously damaged. It was under US administration until 1972, when control was returned to Japan.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation